This week, our Shelf doth overfloweth with superheroes, Time Lords, masters of horror, charming cannibals, and even a couple of giveaways for your getting-free-stuff pleasure. It’s like it’s getting close to Christmas time or something. It’s not, but it’s like that.
We all know that Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark was the beginning of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008’s Iron Man and has remained the most popular character in the franchise. However great he was in The Avengers, I didn’t particularly find Iron Man 2 all that entertaining, so I was a bit nervous about a third entry in his personal saga. I mean, how could we even bother with another solo Iron Man movie after the epic amazingness of The Avengers? Well, writer-director Shane Black infused a new attitude and did some crazy-bonkers-cuckoo things with the narrative to give this well-worn character a bit of new flavor. Some of it really works, like having Tony on the run for most of the movie and making it a mystery, not to mention introducing Iron Man’s most popular villain, The Mandarin, and doing the ol’ switcheroo with it. However, some of it really didn’t work, like, for instance, pretty much the whole third act. Still, as possibly the last solo Iron Man movie, it brings back some of the magic from part one and keeps the post-team-up tension brimming just below the surface.
The Blu-ray has quite a lot of great special features, including a new One-Shot, Agent Carter (read my interview with its director Louis D’Esposito here), making-ofs, a commentary with Shane Black, deleted scenes, and more. The HD transfer is also spectacular, in case you wondered. And, if you download the J.A.R.V.I.S. iOS app, you can actually control the Blu-ray with nothing but your voice. And phone.
And if you really love Iron Man and want him in your home even more than just the Blu-ray, then you’ll want to enter our Kotobukiya ARTFX statues giveaway, in which you can receive 15″ representations of Iron Man in the Mark 42 suit and War Machine in his Mark Whatever suit. You’ve only got until October 1st, so enter now.
Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight films remain the best adaptation of Batman to live-action (I still think The Animated Series is the best adaptation full stop) and they have stayed in the cultural zeitgeist even with Ben Affleck’s take on the character only a couple of years away. The “Nolanverse” struck a chord with a lot of fans who felt that Batman done more or less realistically was just what the franchise needed after the laughably campy Joel Schumacher films. He also chose the best villains for the movies, with Ra’s Al Ghul, the Joker, Two-Face, Scarecrow, Catwoman, and even Bane done incredibly well on their own terms and in the context of the stories themselves.
For those who love these movies as much as I do, you’ll want to check out the Ultimate Collectors’ Edition Blu-ray set, which not only features the five discs of the previous Trilogy release, but a bonus sixth disc with all new features (like the above), three limited-edition Hot Wheels vehicles (Batmobile, Batpod, Batwing), a 48-page book, and five Mondo art cards with each of the main villains (minus Catwoman because she wasn’t all bad) on them. It’s a terrific set, and if you enter our giveaway, you can win a set for your very own. Don’t delay, or everybody will be asking why you’re so serious.
John Carpenter is easily one of my favorite directors of all time, and he began a nearly ten-year streak of excellence with his 1978 masterpiece, Halloween. The story of a crazed murder who escapes from a mental hospital on October 30th to go back to his hometown and, masked and jumpsuited, begins stalking and killing babysitters in suburbia, the movie made a scream queen out of its young star, Jamie Lee Curtis, daughter of Hollywood heavyweights Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, who knew a thing or two about screaming. In the movie, Carpenter is able to set an almost unwavering sense of dread and terror as the masked Michael Meyers follows Laurie Strode and eventually gets too close for comfort. Making things more creepy is the appearance of Donald Pleasance as Dr. Loomis, who knows the boy’s evil all too well. This movie is the blueprint for all slasher movies that came after and is still, largely due to Carpenter’s direction and masterfully terrifying score, the best and least bloody of the entire genre. While his later The Thing is probably his best, Halloween remains Carpenter’s lasting legacy.
And we go from one extreme to the other. In 1987, Carpenter made the first of his truly-independent films with this eerie, apocalyptic, atmospheric, though not all together successful, devil-science movie, Prince of Darkness. A group of university students and scientists gather at a church in Downtown Los Angeles in the basement of which is a large vat of green, swirly liquid, which is believed to be pure, ancient evil. The church soon becomes the epicenter for Satanic activity as it gets surrounded by zombified street people (led by Alice Cooper) and people slowly becoming minions of the Dark Prince himself. Only Donald Pleasance, Victor Wong, and Jameson Parker stand between the world and total evil takeover. A lot of good ideas here, but it doesn’t necessarily all cohere properly. We never really understand why anything’s happening, nor is it clear if this liquid Satan is really the Devil himself or just generic demonic forces. Still, visually, it’s very striking and could probably elicit a nightmare or two.
The Blu-ray disc, like with the earlier They Live and The Fog releases, is masterful with beautiful picture and sound, and new interviews with Carpenter, Cooper, assistant composer Allan Howarth, and special effects guy/actor Robert Grasmere. There’s also a commentary with Carpenter and his old friend and frequent actor Peter Jason. No Carpenter Blu-ray collection would be complete without it.
Doctor Who: The Complete Seventh Series – At long last, it’s the full release of every Doctor Who episode from “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe” through “The Name of the Doctor.” Features include everything from BBC America, some new featurettes, and commentaries on “The Snowmen,” “Cold War,” “Hide,” and “The Crimson Horror.”
Hannibal: Season One – In a television season overflowing with new horror-tinged crime thrillers, NBC’s Hannibal stood out as being the most clever and often the most disturbing, as everybody’s favorite cannibal assists FBI Agent Will Graham.
Psycho II - Did you know that in 1983 they made a sequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho? And that it also starred Anthony Perkins? Cuz they did.
Psycho III - Did you know that in 1986 they made a sequel to the sequel to Alfred Hitchock’s Psycho? And that not only did Anthony Perkins star in it, but he directed it as well? Cuz they did.
Room 237 - Rodney Ascher’s haunting and fascinating visual documentary about people’s wildly imaginative and troublingly thorough beliefs about Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. A must-see.
INDIE COMEDY PICK
The Kings of Summer – One of my very favorite movies of the year, this is a gorgeous, touching, and hilarious coming of age movie about three teenage boys who build a house in the woods and how their parents cope with them running away. Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Alison Brie, and many other comedic talents populate the film. Please check out my interview with the film’s director, Jordan Vogt-Roberts.
AND OUT ON DIGITAL
The Hangover Part III - Well, at least it’s over.
After Earth – Well, at least it’s over.